DataEdge 2015: Inside the Data Science Phenomenon

Posted by Lexi Rivetti, UCB student intern at UCOP. Tucked away inside South Hall, the oldest campus building in the UC system, is Berkeley’s School of Information. To undergraduates, South Hall is a mystery, for classes in the school only cater to master’s and Ph.D. students. But the DataEdge conference, which the school hosts annually, opens the door to the entire campus and data science community.

On May 7 and 8, speakers from Palantir, Microsoft, Code for America, and more came to DataEdge to talk about what it means to be a data scientist and why some people are calling it the “sexiest” job of the year.

How sexy? Take a glance at any careers site and you’ll find listings upon listings of big-name companies looking for qualified data scientists. There is clearly a talent shortage.

Despite having their skillset in such demand, conference attendees, most of whom were students, excitedly asked a panel of data science managers about the hiring processes of some of the biggest companies.

Panelists included Elena Grewal of Airbnb, Cameran Hetrick of ThredUp, Jonathan Hsu of Social + Capital Partnership, and Kimberly Stedman of Motiga, giving attendees a glimpse into the variety of interview experiences one might encounter.

Of the four, Airbnb’s hiring process was the most revered, and Jonathan Hsu, formerly of Facebook, joked that he lost quite a few qualified applicants to the start up a few years ago. (In case you’re wondering, Airbnb, known for its beautiful offices, likes to invite applicants over for a full day to solve a real problem the company once encountered with data science. The interview includes perks such as lunch, snacks, and the company of one’s potential co-workers.)

Besides learning some insider tips, attendees came to DataEdge to meet with old colleagues, network with new friends, and share their passion for solving some of the biggest questions of our time with data science.

Marjorie Sayer, a master of information and data science student (shown center in the picture), was inspired to come because “We all have access to so much data. You can actually learn a little data science techniques, a little statistics, a little experimental design, and use these things to run your life and I think that’s very exciting…in addition to all that Fitbit stuff.”

In this digital age, data is everywhere, and data scientists are the ones who make sense of it all.

Comment (1)

  1. Tom A

    If I were in college today, I would become a data scientist. The next 25 years for data, analytics & visualization will be what the last 25 years have been for SW


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